Rethinking HEP and LD power

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Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby Tadman » Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:21 pm

I've spent some time overseas over the last few years and noticed some interesting trends.

1. Some countries have HEP vans/cars to allow multi-purpose locomotives without HEP equipment on board.
2. Some long distance passenger train operators lease locomotives from freight carriers.

It would be an interesting discussion to consider this on Amtrak long distance operations. I can see a few advantages to running HEP out of a baggage car and leasing freight power.

First, it frees Amtrak from the extremes of the engine procurement process. They run their engines harder and longer than anybody. The P42's are tired and the AEM7 was beyond tired. Because the Class 1's are constantly upgrading the fleet, there is no fight with congress for capital dollars ever 25 years to replace a fleet on its last legs.

Second, because a host road is likely to be supplying the power on a wet-lease basis (IE maintenance included), they would be incentivized to ensure proper maintenance and maximum uptime, lest they cause delays on their own road.

Third, because HEP and propulsion are now separated, when one malfunctions, the other is not shopped. Why an entire engine be shopped when an HEP transformer eats it?

Finally, bid could be held annually for power districts. As various railroads experience shortages and surplus of power, it would ensure Amtrak gets the best rate.

Examples: Caledonian Sleeper (overnight train to Scotland) being pulled by Great Britain Rail Freight 92-class: https://scontent.ford4-1.fna.fbcdn.net/ ... e=5CE0C98F

El Tucumano, 32 hour overnight in Argentina, with HEP "Furgon" (van) https://sateliteferroviario.com.ar//hor ... ucuman.jpg
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby David Benton » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:10 pm

New Zealand does the same , basically a Caterpillar genset in one 1/2 of the baggage car.I don't think we have ever had HEP incorporated into the locomotives.
One Amtrak train I think would benefit, The Auto Train . Its number of passenger cars is constrained by the Head end cabling capabilities.
If it had a Hep car on each end of the passenger cars , the number of cars could be increased.
Another advantage, HEP could stay on during engine changes.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby ryanov » Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:06 am

I don't think HEP would stay on during the engine changes. Why would they leave a diesel generator on the train in electric territory?
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby David Benton » Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:05 am

Good point. Though at Albany,the train continues as diesel after the engine change,and also at breakdowns. Washington dc i guess they would remove the HEP car.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby DutchRailnut » Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:28 am

Then again Amtrak did have HEP cars on NEC to be used with GG-1's
Putting a HEP in a baggage car is fine , but you need a spare, so now you have two HEP in one basket (get my drift)
The rumor about how long a train can be, is pretty much railbuff generated, the trainline is 4 cables between cars with each conductor 4-0 size.
3 cables are rated at 1.2 Mw while maximum a locomotive can deliver is 1 Mw, enough for about 23 superliners in full service. the Auto train does trainline the car carriers but mainly for a few light bulbs and marker lights.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:35 am

Even if Amtrak did choose to keep its own locomotive fleet, and I think it’s fought hard to keep everything in-house for good reason, your suggestion allows the company to obtain six-axle freight power that doesn’t meet Plate C (ish) tunnel clearance. It’d be like back in the F40 days with mandatory power changes at Albany, Washington, Harrisburg et al. You’d lose the smoother handling of graduated-release braking though, for what that’s worth.

It’s also an open question whether using freight power + a HEP car is a cheaper option than keeping the same type of HEP-equipped locomotives nationwide. This seems like the type of deal you’d make if you were spinning off the LD service and hiring power out to the Class I roads.

Also +1 to Dutch’s point about an uninterruptible HEP power supply, which most LDs already have with two locomotives.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby Tadman » Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:49 am

Some interesting discussion here, and my further questions:

ryanov wrote:I don't think HEP would stay on during the engine changes. Why would they leave a diesel generator on the train in electric territory?


You have few options here. I notice sometimes the HEP van is on the rear, sometimes on the front of the consist. In the above scenario, perhaps you could leave it on the rear during the motor change, then drop the HEP van before immediately attaching to the new electric motor? Of course this is Washington/Philly only, as the Albany engine change doesn't result in electric draw until almost at NYP.

For that matter, would it be easier to hook up shore power at Albany or DC during the motor change, then hook to the new motor? I'm not advocating for any particular arrangement, just curious.

DutchRailnut wrote:Then again Amtrak did have HEP cars on NEC to be used with GG-1's
Putting a HEP in a baggage car is fine , but you need a spare, so now you have two HEP in one basket (get my drift)


Do you need a spare? All corridor and some long distance trains only run with one engine anyway. For that matter, it might be easier to leave a spare genset at places like Albany and Chicago that can be changed with a forklift probably quicker than the HEP van could be shunted out and replaced.

DutchRailnut wrote: The rumor about how long a train can be, is pretty much railbuff generated, the trainline is 4 cables between cars with each conductor 4-0 size.
3 cables are rated at 1.2 Mw while maximum a locomotive can deliver is 1 Mw, enough for about 23 superliners in full service. the Auto train does trainline the car carriers but mainly for a few light bulbs and marker lights.


If in theory it were a true constraint, couldn't an HEP van be placed mid-train so the front and rear half are seeing half the amperage draw on the cables? Of course then you'd have to use a pass-through, but it wouldn't be much different than passing around a diner's kitchen.

mtuandrew wrote:It’s also an open question whether using freight power + a HEP car is a cheaper option than keeping the same type of HEP-equipped locomotives nationwide.


Let's assume it's not dollar-for-dollar cheaper. But factor in the cost of breakdowns on the road. They must be astronomically costly. Delay connecting trains, screw up host railroad operations, put people up in hotels, feed people, pay station staff and crew overtime...

Here's a number I ran across. The US railroads have 26,000 locomotives, 5,000 of which are in storage. Amtrak has about 200 to cover all diesel road needs and those in the shop. That's 7/10 of one percent of the total freight fleet, a literal rounding error. That's also only four percent of the stored fleet. It indicates to me that the economies of scale enjoyed by the Class 1's are not enjoyed by Amtrak, and there are likely plenty of spares to be wet-leased to Amtrak on a very advantageous terms.

mtuandrew wrote: This seems like the type of deal you’d make if you were spinning off the LD service and hiring power out to the Class I roads.


It does, and I think it's a nice soundbyte. No news organization is going to go into this story in depth (look at the headlines, it's not Amtrak these days...). But some congressman on the right will love to send out a quick tweet showing how he got Amtrak to tighten their belt when really it's a win-win for all.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:12 pm

Tadman wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:It’s also an open question whether using freight power + a HEP car is a cheaper option than keeping the same type of HEP-equipped locomotives nationwide.


Let's assume it's not dollar-for-dollar cheaper. But factor in the cost of breakdowns on the road. They must be astronomically costly. Delay connecting trains, screw up host railroad operations, put people up in hotels, feed people, pay station staff and crew overtime...

Here's a number I ran across. The US railroads have 26,000 locomotives, 5,000 of which are in storage. Amtrak has about 200 to cover all diesel road needs and those in the shop. That's 7/10 of one percent of the total freight fleet, a literal rounding error. That's also only four percent of the stored fleet. It indicates to me that the economies of scale enjoyed by the Class 1's are not enjoyed by Amtrak, and there are likely plenty of spares to be wet-leased to Amtrak on a very advantageous terms.

True, I have looked longingly at the ex-ATSF GP60s and B40-8Ws for instance...

Worth noting though that Amtrak runs less than 0.7% of all diesel-powered trains in the country on a daily basis*, generally with the same or fewer locomotives necessary as for freights.

Tadman wrote:
mtuandrew wrote: This seems like the type of deal you’d make if you were spinning off the LD service and hiring power out to the Class I roads.


It does, and I think it's a nice soundbyte. No news organization is going to go into this story in depth (look at the headlines, it's not Amtrak these days...). But some congressman on the right will love to send out a quick tweet showing how he got Amtrak to tighten their belt when really it's a win-win for all.


I dunno, like many conservative proposals that sound like a “win-win” in the short term, this stands to benefit host roads and cost Amtrak (and the American taxpayer) much more in the long term. Currently Amtrak has control of its own power and only pays host lines a marginal trackage fee. If Amtrak hires out power and especially if it hires out T&E crew again, the host roads would then be able to jack up their Amtrak-specific horsepower-hour rates in order to “make up for Amtrak’s deficient trackage payments” in their account books. It isn’t like New Zealand where the system is either a privately-run public utility or a government agency, dependent on the decade. I’m not here to debate the fairness of Amtrak’s trackage payments, but it’s a worthwhile consideration when weighing the future of off-Corridor service.



* citation needed, admittedly
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby John_Perkowski » Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:54 pm

While I see the sense of this for Amtrak, is anyone building new diesels for CalTrain, Metra, MNRR, ad infinitum?

Would Siemens even build Chargers for the US market if Amtrak weren’t buying 70+ at a pop?

Lord knows I see nothing in the Cat/EMD catalog indicating a desire to build a passenger unit...

I’m asking about the whole picture of the US passenger locomotive market, not just Amtrak’s wedge.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby eolesen » Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:27 pm

The OP has essentially described how the UP and others handle their officer fleets... power cars.

I think it's safe to say Siemens and EMD came out with their Tier 4 passenger locomotive offerings on the hope that Amtrak would bite. I don't know if the F125 has a future now that Amtrak seems set on the SC44, but there might still be some interest from commuter agencies. Metra is going to have to do something eventually, and 21 second-hand F59's won't cut it.

EMD has also offered SD70ACe's with an option for on-demand HEP, which is currently in use with the Alaska Railroad. One of the three inverters gets cut out and redirected away from the center traction motors and over to train-line power. The only problem is it's a six axle locomotive, and overkill for most agencies needs.

When EMD eventually gets around to producing a Tier-4 GP model, it wouldn't surprise me to see a similar on-demand HEP option. Inverters changed everything.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby superstar » Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:35 pm

John_Perkowski wrote:While I see the sense of this for Amtrak, is anyone building new diesels for CalTrain, Metra, MNRR, ad infinitum?

Would Siemens even build Chargers for the US market if Amtrak weren’t buying 70+ at a pop?

Lord knows I see nothing in the Cat/EMD catalog indicating a desire to build a passenger unit...

I’m asking about the whole picture of the US passenger locomotive market, not just Amtrak’s wedge.


MPI made quite a niche for themselves with the MPExpress line that dominated commuter lines for quite a long time until the HSP46 blew up in their faces and seems to have pretty well ended their business as a new-build manufacturer in the US. I think they are still working on an order for Toronto now, though, and they still have steady work in rebuilding. I would expect them to respond to RfPs in the future, especially when the GE merger is complete.

Had Amtrak not ordered their own Chargers, Siemens would have continued to be able to build them for quite a while with the VIA order and several CA commuter buyers. I expect it would have become, probably will become, the 2020s version of the MPI products.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby David Benton » Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:18 pm

DutchRailnut wrote:Then again Amtrak did have HEP cars on NEC to be used with GG-1's
Putting a HEP in a baggage car is fine , but you need a spare, so now you have two HEP in one basket (get my drift)
The rumor about how long a train can be, is pretty much railbuff generated, the trainline is 4 cables between cars with each conductor 4-0 size.
3 cables are rated at 1.2 Mw while maximum a locomotive can deliver is 1 Mw, enough for about 23 superliners in full service. the Auto train does trainline the car carriers but mainly for a few light bulbs and marker lights.

This is from a post by 3rdrail7, who may be a rail buff , but I'm pretty sure works for Amtrak .
"That is what has been done in the past, but not this time. It is an additional passenger carrying car for a total of 17. Typically, they try to max out at 16 cars on HEP, but they've run somes test and are gong for it. They are limiting the amount of auto carriers to make sure they comply with the hard 50 car limit. It shouldn't be a problem. There are many trips where they leave some of the carriers behind anyway."
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:10 pm

eolesen wrote:The OP has essentially described how the UP and others handle their officer fleets... power cars.

I think it's safe to say Siemens and EMD came out with their Tier 4 passenger locomotive offerings on the hope that Amtrak would bite. I don't know if the F125 has a future now that Amtrak seems set on the SC44, but there might still be some interest from commuter agencies. Metra is going to have to do something eventually, and 21 second-hand F59's won't cut it..

I’d love to see Metra order the first F40ECO and MP36ECO rebuilds from EMD, but that’s still just kicking the can. Also, if the past is a guide I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amtrak buy a small fleet of F125s.

eolesen wrote:EMD has also offered SD70ACe's with an option for on-demand HEP, which is currently in use with the Alaska Railroad. One of the three inverters gets cut out and redirected away from the center traction motors and over to train-line power. The only problem is it's a six axle locomotive, and overkill for most agencies needs.

When EMD eventually gets around to producing a Tier-4 GP model, it wouldn't surprise me to see a similar on-demand HEP option. Inverters changed everything.


I think EMD will start building Tier 4 Geeps around the eleventeenth of Neveruary in the year twenty-thirty-threeve. :P The Big Two haven’t seriously cataloged four-axle freight power since the 1990s and I suspect the closest we’ll get from them is rebuilds and glorified gensets.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby Tadman » Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:13 pm

The Metra mention is an interesting one. They are flat broke, buying seriously beat up Cascades F59's. I'm curious if some of the stored freight power could be bought and run with either an HEP van or the middle axle inverter supplying HEP. Both methods have been done, and it could be a cheap solution here. Heck, there are already two freight railroads with a contract to operate those trains.

I'll take this to the Metra forum so as not to pollute this thread.
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Re: Rethinking HEP and LD power

Postby kitn1mcc » Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:38 pm

We even built a Power Car here at the Valley to power the old commuter cars we got from timber train.
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